Coach’s Challenge for October 1, 2007

Good day, team,

This week’s challenge is about forgiveness. This subject came up for me just this weekend. My husband and I attended a large family celebration, and I was given opportunities to forgive some family members with whom I have had difficult relationships in the past.

In one case, one of my in-laws and his wife became quite angry a few years ago about something that my husband and I were supposed to have done to them. We never understood what the actual offense was, and although we tried to talk with them about it, their response was to stop communicating with us altogether.

In this situation, I felt completely justified in also shutting them out of our lives. I thought, “Well, it’s their choice to not work this out and, therefore, I’m certainly not going to keep trying if they don’t want to. I never understood what the problem was to begin with, so they have to reach out to us if this is ever going to change.” And with that attitude, the chances of the situation ever getting resolved were pretty minimal.

The celebration yesterday brought me such joy that when I saw my in-laws, I realized that all the justifications and questions about who’s right and who’s wrong really didn’t make any difference. Here was an opportunity for my husband and me to reach out, and if they didn’t respond, then so be it. It was worth trying again.

Interestingly enough, we were actually able to communicate civilly, and perhaps a small opening was made for future interactions. I was feeling quite good about all of this and, as the evening continued, I thought about the miracle of forgiveness and how it clears the path for people to be able to move forward. To forgive means to cease to feel resentment toward an offender, to pardon one’s enemies, to grant relief from payment of a debt. It comes from the Old English word “forgifan,” meaning to give beforehand. In the act of forgiveness, we are willing to give to the other person before they are willing to give to us. Someone must be willing to be the first to give of themselves for another to receive and reciprocate.

Resentment is an obstacle to moving forward. The longer we hold on to resentment, the more difficult it is to overcome. So forgiveness acts as a catalyst for increasing possibilities between people.

Your challenge this week is to see what resentment you’re holding on to with another person. Try forgiving that person and do something that lets him or her know you’ve done so. Maybe you’ve been feuding with a co-worker for awhile and decide to forgive all the negativity that’s gone on between the two of you by having coffee and talking about how you’d like the relationship to change. Perhaps you’ve been unable to forgive a family member for many years and you write that person a letter expressing your desire to relate differently in the future. How about giving a treat (a donut, bagel, piece of candy or flower) to someone you have a lot of trouble with. Sometimes the smallest act of kindness can completely change the nature of a relationship.

As our family celebration continued yesterday, many of us were out on the dance floor having a gay old time. At some point, a distant relative who had had far too much to drink approached and verbally attacked me. I was completely taken aback. At the time, I immediately judged her and wrote her off.

And so, as we see, the cycle starts again. One minute we work to forgive someone and the next moment we are given another opportunity to do it again with someone else. It seems to me that these kinds of opportunities are plentiful at family events! Whatever the case may be, we all have the chance to forgive and forget so that our hearts remain open to the love and kindnesses that human beings are truly capable of giving each other.

Have a great week!

Kathleen

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